Road test: Jeep Wrangler JL 2019 review

Front view of a red Jeep Wrangler JL 2019 car parked on a beach

Greg Hill

Posted August 10, 2019


Greg Hill takes the rugged new Jeep Wrangler for an off-road test.

Right from the outset, the solid, boxy, rugged appearance says the new JL-series Jeep Wrangler Unlimited mean business – and it has serious 4X4 off-road ability to match. However, it also comes with compromises in both safety and the level of refinement we’ve come to expect for the around-town commute. That said, the all-new Wrangler is much better on the bitumen as a daily drive than earlier Wranglers.

Despite its contemporary styling and extra technology, JL still has an iconic Jeep appearance and all the adventurous charm of its legendary predecessors. There’s plenty of versatility in the configurations with removable roof panels and doors as well as a fold-down windscreen (for off-road use only).

Thumbs up

Outstanding off-road ability, purposeful appearance, improved technology and creature comforts, more efficient eight-speed automatic.

Thumbs down

Serious safety issues. Awkward driving position. Improved but still compromised road manners.

Rear side view of a red Jeep Wrangler JL 2019 car parked on a beach

 

Prices have increased, but so has the off-road ability. The JL range comprises three trim levels with a choice of Wrangler two-door short wheelbase and the four-door long-wheelbase body configurations called the Wrangler Unlimited. The standard engine across the range is a slightly revised version of the long-serving 3.6 litre Pentastar petrol engine. A new 2.2-litre Multijet turbo diesel is also available in the top-of-the-range Rubicon variant only. Both engines are paired with a new eight-speed ZF automatic transmission, replacing the previous five-speed auto. A manual gearbox is no longer offered.

The new Sport S two-door V6 variant is the price-leader at $48,950 plus on-road costs through to $68,950 for the heavy-duty off-road-focused Rubicon four-door diesel. We tested the mid-range four-door Overland, which at $62,950 is leather trimmed and a little more stylish, without compromising its 4X4 ability. 

Jeep’s Selec-Trac dual-range 4X4 system is employed for the Sport S and Overland variants and handles dirt tracks, steep descents and climbs, sand, rugged terrain and slippery patches with consummate ease. Extra suspension and driveline features on the Rubicon, which is equipped with Jeep’s Rock-Trac 4X4 system, take the off-road ability even further with extras including front stabiliser bar disconnect and front and rear locking differentials.

Equipment levels for each grade have been significantly upgraded. The Overland’s features include new LED headlights and tail-lights, and a new Uconnect system with an 8.4-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Wrangler is designed to be customised with a massive range of accessories available.

For the most part there is a more coherent layout of the instrumentation, switches and controls, although a few things such as the dash-mounted window switches are still illogically placed.

Although classed as a medium SUV, the Wrangler is a relatively big unit. Seating is upright, with the driver perched high and towering over the multitude of mid-size soft-road SUVs that have become so popular. Limited space for the left leg, however, does compromise the driving position. Glance up and the unique roof structure, with its removable roof panels, looks close, but headroom was never a problem. Space and comfort in the rear is satisfactory.

 

Safety is a real concern as the Wrangler only achieved a one-star ANCAP rating. Crash testing showed up some structural issues in occupant protection and the base-model Sport S variants are not equipped with autonomous emergency braking or a lane-support system, which also affects the range’s overall star rating. In the Overland and Rubicon models, AEB and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-path detection are standard features.

Performance of the 3.6-litre V6 petrol engine is plentiful, while the eight-speed automatic’s extra gears put it to good use with a smooth and progressive delivery.   Maximum power is a useful 209kW at 6400rpm and the strong-pulling peak torque of 347Nm arrives at 4300rpm. Minor engine changes including the introduction of a stop/start mode, three extra gears as well as reduced vehicle weight have reduced fuel consumption. Official ADR consumption is 9.7L/100km, down from 11.3L/100km.  On test, which involved mainly suburban and country driving with a short dirt-road section and a little low-range use, our Wrangler averaged 12.5L/100km.

 

Rear view of a red Jeep Wrangler JL 2019 driving on the beach with water splashing high on either side

 

One of the most noticeable areas of improvement with the JL series is the steering and handling. The steering, while still not the most direct, has lost some of the frightening vagueness of the previous model and feels better connected to the wheels. Wrangler could never be considered a refined city slicker but with improved road manners it now does a more acceptable job around town and on the highway. The Wrangler’s size becomes evident in shopping centre carparks.

Jeep claims the Wangler’s 4X4 credentials for off-road use are unrivalled, and from our past experience in the previous-model Rubicon, together with a short dirt-road section on this test and taking into consideration the upgrades for the JL, we see no reason to question its class-leading off-road ability.

Maximum towing capacity for the Unlimited has increased to a useful 2495 kilograms.

 


The verdict

Wrangler is a serious off-roader that’s far more at home tackling tough terrain than negotiating the suburban jungle.

 

Jeep Wrangler Overland

Price

Price as tested: $62,950 plus $4913 on-road costs
Model range: $48,950 to $68,950

Standard safety

One-star ANCAP, four airbags, autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot warning, rear cross-path warning.

Standard features

Reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, premium audio system, leather-trim, heated front seats, full-size alloy spare and hard spare wheel cover, 230V power outlet, under-body skid plates.

Drivetrain

Engine capacity: 3.6-litre V6, eight-speed auto/dual-range 4X4
Max. power: 209kW@6400rpm
Max. torque: 347Nm@4100rpm

Fuel

91 RON, 81-litre tank
Consumption: RACV test 12.5L/100km (RACV test), 9.7L/100km  (government test
CO2 emissions: 225g/km

Warranty/services

60-month, 100,000-kilometre warranty. 12-month, 12,000-kilometre services.


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